I resigned from Rothschild to start a company

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Asia_i_Banker - Certified Professional
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Comments (105)

Apr 25, 2013

Very cool man. thanks for posting

"That dude is so haole, he don't even have any breath left."

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Apr 25, 2013

Thats actually a really cool idea and a nice post. Well done.

"Every man should lose a battle in his youth, so he does not lose a war when he is old"

Apr 25, 2013

Great story! Currently I am in Singapore atm as well. Sent you a pm.

Apr 25, 2013

Woozy, although I love Singapore - it's my favorite city in the world, I am now living in Hong Kong.

I was just in Singapore again a couple of weeks ago, though. It is really a special place - every street is like a garden, the whole city is so beautiful and clean and relaxed, the food is amazing, and I actually like the weather there. I hope you are enjoying it!

Apr 25, 2013

Actually, I would like to go to Hong Kong instead lol. It seems like there are much more investment banking opportunities there as compared to Singapore.

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Apr 25, 2013

Very interesting. How is Rickshaw different from Uber (I think Uber even operates in Singapore, if I'm not mistaken)?

Apr 25, 2013

Edmundo, Uber is in a similar space, but providing a very different kind of experience. Rickshaw is different because:

- Drivers are community members - maybe even your neighbors. This keeps the platform friendly and casual
- Our diverse drivers have diverse cars, whereas I believe Uber just offers standard executive cars and (even more expensive SUVs)
- You always have the benchmark of a local taxi price and can call the local taxi company right from the app
- Price transparency. Uber has had a lot of difficulties with this, particularly due to their surge pricing. Rickshaw passengers clearly know the price before they accept a ride. No tips are added to the bid price (while Uber automatically adds 20% tip)
- While even Uber might face volume problems during peak hours, the way that Rickshaw works actually does better in peak hours, since we have drivers who are leaving the office at 5:30pm and looking to provide rides exactly when the taxis and ubers are straining to meet demand
- Price. Uber is really really expensive. I guess for some of the bankers on WSO, it might be ok, but even for a junior banker, Uber is quite expensive. Rickshaw, which relies on community drivers is much more reasonably priced, and depending on where you are, may likely be cheaper than a taxi.
- I believe that Uber passengers can only pay by credit card, while Rickshaw passengers can pay with either cash or credit card. In China (we will be launching our China version soon), users will be able to pay with the domestic Zhi Fu Bao payment system
- Uber is still really only in the major cities, while Rickshaw passengers have access to our very accurate and totally proprietary database of nearly 1,000 local taxi companies throughout N. America, Europe and Asia Pacific, so even if there might not be a driver bidding on your ride in some town in the Czech Republic, there is a very good chance we can tell you how much a taxi will cost for your ride, and you can easily call that taxi right from the app
- Although it may not be a concern for everyone, the Rickshaw system is significantly more environmentally friendly. Ubers and taxis drive around most of the day burning gas, looking for passengers, while Rickshaw drivers go direct to provide the ride when and where it is requested and are not just cruising around for hours.
- Although I have no data on Uber drivers, Rickshaw drivers earn significantly more than taxi drivers on a per/hr basis. Rickshaw drivers retain 85% of their completed fairs, while most taxi drivers retain less than 50%

There are other nice differentiations, but these are the main ones.

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Apr 25, 2013

Thanks a lot for answering my pm!

Apr 25, 2013

great story Jonathan! Very pleased to read it.

Best.

Apr 25, 2013

How did you get around legal issues (if any) in more regulated places like NYC? I thought there were pretty strict laws regarding who can offer taxi services here.

Apr 25, 2013

@stvr2013, On the regulatory side, it entirely depends on literally each local (often even town-level) jurisdiction. It is unclear how many town governments well really step in and try to stop a safe, voluntary and efficient market place for transportation that (1) provides convenient and pleasant self-employment to their local people, (2) provides more efficient transportation options for their local people, and (3) facilitates their local people connecting for a greater sense of community. The current taxi regimes in many cities (as repeatedly stated by the FTC) is terribly monopolistic and harms both drivers (who themselves as individuals end up earning less than half of their fares) and the passengers (who end up paying much higher prices, and who receive much lower quality service and are limited to far fewer options).

Furthermore, in the state of California, this type of transport system that Rickshaw facilitates is actually formally legal at the current time. The Seattle government along with several other local level governments have chosen to remain silent as they take the "sit-and-observe" approach to this new system of getting around.

On the pure safety side, which is related to some of the regulatory ideology, you can take a look at our website which has more detailed information, but a short overview would be (1) the passenger can always call the local taxi company right from the app and there is a database of nearly 1,000 local taxi companies all over N America, Europe and Asia Pacific with quite accurate pricing information, (2) Before accepting a ride, both driver and passenger can view the entire ratings history of the other party, just like you might view the ratings history of an Amazon seller or ebay seller, (3) the passenger can see clearly which drivers are certified and therefore have gone through more thorough background checks and interviews, (4) the passenger can also view photos of the driver's car, as well as the car's make, model, year, and license plate, (5) if any problem shall arise, there is an entire formal complaint interface built into the app; admin will be notified immediately when a complaint is made and the users can choose to even come to an agreed settlement to the dispute all within the app, (6) if there is a more serious problem, there is a much better chance that the perpetrator can be found as there is just so much more data and transparency in the Rickshaw system as compared to the normal taxi system, where you have never seen your taxi driver before and will never see your taxi driver again and probably would have a hard time even tracking down your forgotten luggage. It would be difficult for someone to evade the data trail after providing dangerous or even unsatisfactory or unfriendly service.

Apr 25, 2013

Love the idea. I used SideCar at SXSW and would thought the service was helpful. I'm curious to hear your advice on programmers - particularly finding the right ones when you don't live in a tech hub.

Apr 25, 2013

Didn't know that Singapore taxis earned the highest % of fare paid as their income lol.

Apr 25, 2013

@Woozy, Singaporean taxi drivers are doing quite alright, relative to international peers. Last year, there was even some discussion in the local media of one particular taxi driver earning SG$7,000/month, although many (including me) doubt the validity of this particular claim.

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Apr 25, 2013

No offense, but it seems you were too focused on marginal monetary gain vs marginal career gain as you were staffed on mindless work.

If you were the #2 analyst in SE Asia, you probably would have been contacted by headhunters for top buy-side jobs. I understand that's probably not what YOU want to do, but other guys on here should know that the paycheck isn't everything.

Also, I think your app idea is fucking awesome.

Apr 25, 2013

@BTbanker Actually during my second year, Rothschild invited me to join their newly created US$300m PE fund up in China, which I did enjoy before the three co-shareholders decided to pull the plug on the whole fund and I returned to IBD in Singapore.

Of course the career gains (and skill gains, and general life experience gains) are extremely important, which I believe I mention in my posting above. However, I believe most people would agree that the work dynamics of IBD (particularly at the analyst level) are not particularly entrepreneurial, unfortunately.

Apr 25, 2013
Asia_i_Banker:

Also, I believe a number of you might be interested in starting a tech related business. If you would like, I could make a future posting about some of the practical things you will need to do to find programmers, get over some significant hurdles (payment systems integration), etc. If you are interested, please say so in the comments below.

thanks for a great post!

i am currently at the position where i am searching for programmers and will probably face some of the problems that you mentioned above

i would highly appreciate if you could write a 2nd part or something, addressing your last paragraph
many thanks

Apr 25, 2013

@animalz I think this is a very important and very common problem faced by people who have a good tech idea, but are not themselves capable of technically constructing the idea. I will try to put together a good post addressing this sometime in the next month or two. Please let me know of any other particular issues you would like me to address.

Apr 25, 2013

Sounds like a walking liability. Some one is going to get a ride from one of your app users and be harmed in some way, and you will be sued. Get a good team of lawyers.

Apr 25, 2013

@CountryUnderdog My co-founder is a lawyer and she will be managing from our side if face any such issues.

In the meantime, I believe we have built a safer, more transparent, and more secure transport system than the current taxi systems in most cities. I have posted above on some of the safety points, but there are some additional points on our website. We take safety really seriously.

Apr 25, 2013
Asia_i_Banker:

Also, I believe a number of you might be interested in starting a tech related business. If you would like, I could make a future posting about some of the practical things you will need to do to find programmers, get over some significant hurdles (payment systems integration), etc. If you are interested, please say so in the comments below.

Definitely, pm me the link when you post

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Apr 25, 2013

+1. Great post. This is very interesting.

What liabilities would you face if one of the rickshaw drivers ended up attacking a passenger (mugging, rape, assault, murder, etc.)? Do you have to get insurance for things like that?

''You can fool some of the people all of the time, and those are the ones you need to concentrate on.'' -- President George W. Bush
0.5 bb

Apr 25, 2013

@Dubya We are a communications platform which enables independent community members to better coordinate with the people around them in order to create a more efficient, safe, transparent and friendly market for transport

Drivers and passengers are responsible for their own actions. We have developed pretty robust system to increase the safety of both drivers and passengers, but it is up to individuals to make their own decisions. I have posted above several points on our platform's safety and there is some more on this subject on our website.

Apr 25, 2013

how much did it cost you to make the 2 versions of the app and how did you go about finding the programmer?

Apr 25, 2013

@cass - great questions. I will address these in a future WSO post. Please add here any additional questions you have.

Apr 25, 2013

Hello Asia_i_Banker!

Thanks for your post, it's nice to share your experience.

My question is more about IBD in Singapore.

How does it differ from London / New York? What are the demographics in the office, is everyone from the region? As a Junior (Analyst/Associate), do you need to speak an SEA language and/or Mandarin? Do you think a white European who only speaks English stand a chance at securing a position or not?
Who dominates the market? I guess the BBs are way stronger than the elite boutiques in Asia?

Thanks for your answers.

Apr 25, 2013

Hey Asia_i_Banker, great move and App idea. I sent you a message on your website, look forward to meeting up.

Apr 25, 2013

I think this a cool idea, but I was wondering on how your value proposition differs from SideCar?

Apr 25, 2013

one thing i noticed is that side car more prominently promotes their background checks...which jurisdictions will you be doing that for?

Apr 25, 2013

@tom collins After a driver has achieved 20 reviews with an average review of 4 stars or more, they are invited to apply to become a Certified Rickshaw Driver. The certification process will entail a Skype interview as well as a background check which will include the driver's driving violation history and/or criminal record, depending on the driver's location. The driver's ratings history, history of ride cancellations, history of formal disputes on the Rickshaw platform, an interview, and further background checks will enable us to make a decision on whether or not to grant the driver Certified Rickshaw Driver status.

If the driver becomes a Certified Rickshaw Driver, an "R" icon will appear next to their name whenever they are bidding for a new ride and passengers will have additional confidence in accepting their bids.

If a passenger wishes to only accept bids from Certified Rickshaw Drivers, they can clearly see the status of each bidding driver and can always easily call the local taxi company right from the app if no satisfactory bids are received.

Apr 30, 2013
Asia_i_Banker:

@tom collins After a driver has achieved 20 reviews with an average review of 4 stars or more, they are invited to apply to become a Certified Rickshaw Driver. The certification process will entail a Skype interview as well as a background check which will include the driver's driving violation history and/or criminal record, depending on the driver's location. The driver's ratings history, history of ride cancellations, history of formal disputes on the Rickshaw platform, an interview, and further background checks will enable us to make a decision on whether or not to grant the driver Certified Rickshaw Driver status.

If the driver becomes a Certified Rickshaw Driver, an "R" icon will appear next to their name whenever they are bidding for a new ride and passengers will have additional confidence in accepting their bids.

If a passenger wishes to only accept bids from Certified Rickshaw Drivers, they can clearly see the status of each bidding driver and can always easily call the local taxi company right from the app if no satisfactory bids are received.

This is a great idea. Get it out on blackberry too?

Apr 30, 2013

@TDSWIM We are planning to release a Blackberry version after we release our next major update (which should be this week). As a part of this next update, we will be expanding to encompass 22 currencies and 6 languages and be available throughout N. America, Europe and Asia Pacific (although a China-specific version will also be released several weeks from now).

Blackberry has a very nice tool to convert Android apps to Blackberry apps. They have really embraced openness and now iPhone is looking like the old Blackberry of the past.

Apple is so confident that their "clean" and tightly controlled interface is a winning strategy, but it actually stifles both the users and the developers.

For example, every time I update my iPhone app fix any glitches - or even if I want to change a single screenshot, I have to wait an entire week for Apple to "approve" my new update. For Android, any update is distributed to users within 5 hours, so I can keep the APK working much more smoothly and up-to-date as compared to the iPhone version. As a result of this slow ecosystem, iPhone users will not actually receive our next update until at least next week, even if we can get the update out to our Android users this week.

Blackberry has taken note of Android's quick success and has realized that an open, flexible platform is the best strategy. I believe 30% of all Blackberry apps are actually converted Android apps (like the one we would release sometime soon).

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Apr 25, 2013

@ky0ung Some ways Rickshaw is different than SideCar
- Passengers immediately see the estimated cost of a taxi company (from our totally proprietary database of nearly 1,000 local taxi companies throughout N. America, Europe and Asia Pacific) and the passengers can easily call the local taxi company right from the app if they would like. If you take a trip to some town in Texas, Czech Rep, or New Zealand, there is a good chance that we can provide you an accurate price of a local taxi and give you the ability to call that local taxi company from the app, even if their might not be any drivers on the platform yet.

- Passengers clearly see the price they are agreeing to prior to accepting a ride, and they can compare the offered prices to the taxi price benchmark. In other services, passengers only know the price after they have completed the ride.

- Passengers can clearly choose their drivers based on the type of car they have, the proximity to their location, and their ratings history. Perhaps a passenger would also like to pay more to be picked up by a driver with a BMW and a 5 star rating, or perhaps a passenger would instead like to get a ride from someone with an older Toyota with a 4 star rating if it would mean a less expensive price.

- Rickshaw's unique bidding system also allows better quality drivers who may have more expensive vehicles to obtain a price that is higher than a driver with a lower vehicle cost.

- While I believe SideCar expects drivers to work in "shifts," Rickshaw allows each driver to set up notification settings in order to find out about new rides exactly when it is most convenient for them - perhaps right when they themselves got out of the office, which may also be when nearby people are looking for a ride. For example, you can set Rickshaw to notify you when any ride is requested within 5 miles of 85 John Street, New York between the hours of 5pm and 6:30pm Mon-Fri, or within 8 miles of your GPS location at that time between hours of 10:30am and 8:00pm Sat-Sun.

- I believe that SideCar drivers earn 80% of the price paid, while Rickshaw drivers earn 85%

- I believe that SideCar passengers can only pay credit card, while Rickshaw passengers can pay cash or credit card (some passengers just don't like using their credit cards online).

There are some other differentiating factors, although these are some key ones. You can take a look at my posting above for some examples of how Rickshaw is different from Uber, and some might be included with how we are different from SideCar. I have never actually used SideCar (or any competitors), so this is only based on what I have read.

Apr 25, 2013

Great post! See your post on facebook as well

Apr 25, 2013
Asia_i_Banker:

However, my problem was not actually the quantity of work. My problem was the feeling of the work being pushed to me and that I was not building anything, genuinely, myself - I was working so hard, but I did not feel equity in the work.

What you said above is exactly what made me want to leave banking. I always wanted to see if I could build something that would make people's lives better. I've been at it a year, and hopefully that is what we are doing. I believe my banking experience was a great training ground for entrepreneurship.

Nice work. I'll definitely check out your app, although you may run into some problems where I'm based because I know that Uber has had a rough go of it. The taxi companies are lobbying hard against them. It's a great idea, and I think a number of aspects of what you've laid out are superior to Uber. I don't know why the existing cab companies deserve a monopoly just because they were there first. I always used to take the gypsy cabs from the airport when I lived in NYC to save time waiting in the cab lines.

My biggest concern would be how do you vet the drivers? I know that my wife would be afraid to just get into someone's car. What happens if someone gets kidnapped/robbed? The same could be said about a taxi in NYC or a scooter cab in Thailand though...for some reason a formal cab gets viewed as more respectable.

I look forward to your future posts.

P.S. You added the bit about Certified Drivers after I posted this...good idea. Hope you kill it!

Apr 25, 2013

Great post! I think herein lies the difference of business owner and paid employee! I currently am working in the mobile payments industry for a US MNC, I am at the early stage of my career but everytime i approach a problem, i try to think like a business owner. I think this will be good training for the future. All the best for your start-up. Technology FTW!

Apr 25, 2013

Isn't Rothschild in Singapore purely Debt Advisory? Was considering a move over before securing my current position.

Apr 25, 2013

@thecoldburns Debt Advisory is a part of Rothschild Singapore, but it is often integrated into the other areas such as raising debt for acqusition financing, together with the RTH M&A team, or raising debt for project finance, together with the industry/corp fin team. There are also "pure" debt advisory mandates, but Rothschild certainly does quite a lot of M&A, ECM, etc.

Apr 25, 2013

Very interesting. So the Singapore office also has an M&A team/coverage or is that based in HK?

Also, what is the likelihood of an internal transfer from the investment banking side to the private equity arm in Rothschild? Was the opportunity you recieved in China a rare case?

Apr 25, 2013

@thecoldburns Southeast Asia is a major region within Rothschild, just like Greater China is a major region. Within Southeast Asia, Singapore serves as the main hub of bankers and is fully capable of M&A, ECM, DCM, and general corp fin advisory. There is also a private banking team, although of course that is a different entity behind a wall.

The chance of transferring to any RTH-related PE is very small. The PE that I was invited to join was short-lived before the shareholders decided to close it down. RTH is very focused on advisory and does quite well with this. If you are interested in moving to PE, there are a lot of ex-RTH bankers who move into great positions at other PE funds.

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Apr 26, 2013
Asia_i_Banker:

@thecoldburns Southeast Asia is a major region within Rothschild, just like Greater China is a major region. Within Southeast Asia, Singapore serves as the main hub of bankers and is fully capable of M&A, ECM, DCM, and general corp fin advisory. There is also a private banking team, although of course that is a different entity behind a wall.
The chance of transferring to any RTH-related PE is very small. The PE that I was invited to join was short-lived before the shareholders decided to close it down. RTH is very focused on advisory and does quite well with this. If you are interested in moving to PE, there are a lot of ex-RTH bankers who move into great positions at other PE funds.

Cool, thanks a bunch. I'm currently in PE and located in Singapore right now. Just wanted to know what I would have missed out with Rothschild.

Congrats on Rickshaw, very apt name that would resonate here in Asia. The proprietary databse looks like a massive project. Did you start working on it only after you left Rothschild or you had plans way before hand?

Apr 26, 2013

@thecoldburns Our taxi database has been a huge project. We were initially going to outsource it to the Philippines or India, etc., but then we realized that - despite what you might think - it takes a bit of concentration to properly replicate the pricing formulas and these taxi pricing benchmarks are such a fundamental part of our product that we did not want to take the risk on an outsourced firm.

We have just been steadily building the database over the past 7 months. Whenever I have some down time, I just continue building the database. Today, for example, I am adding several new companies in Iceland (one of the currencies we will be adding in the next week is the Icelandic krona). Sometimes it is really terribly boring for us to do, but I do believe that it is a very valuable part of our product.

Apr 26, 2013

This story is awesome on so many levels.

Apr 26, 2013

So anyone can become a de facto taxi driver without a license?

Apr 26, 2013

@Firefox All drivers must have a valid drivers license and upload a photo of their license during driver registration. We then check the drivers license to see if it matches with the other registration details provided. Also, these are community drivers, and not "taxi" drivers. Just like AirBnB connects you with community hosts rather than "hotels"

Apr 26, 2013
Asia_i_Banker:

@Firefox All drivers must have a valid drivers license and upload a photo of their license during driver registration. We then check the drivers license to see if it matches with the other registration details provided. Also, these are community drivers, and not "taxi" drivers. Just like AirBnB connects you with community hosts rather than "hotels"

Sorry I wasn't clear, I was referring to a taxi license. Don't those normally cost north of $200,000, depending on what city you're in? How can some random dude go around offering people lifts in exchange for cash without operating under such a license? Just curious..

Apr 26, 2013

Actually, US$200,000 isn't even that high. In NYC a "medallion" to operate one single taxi car costs US$1,000,000 and it is similarly obscenely expensive in other major cities.

These medallion systems have been the constant target of formal FTC and general consumer complaints. In the old days, it used to be the case that the market for transportation was effectively wide open and any hard working guy could easily become a taxi driver.

Over the past couple of decades, these medallion systems have harmed both passengers (who pay high prices for poor service) and drivers. Now, the person who is actually driving you around is usually not the actual person who "owns" the taxi. Instead, they pay high rental fees to the taxi company and then are under incredible pressure to make that rental money back + a small profit as they dart around the city all day looking for fares.

The taxi companies, meanwhile, are no longer actually in the business of providing taxi service, but instead become these feudal landlords to the hardworking drivers. Most taxi drivers themselves earn much less than half of the high price you are actually paying them.

While this whole system is so poisonous, Rickshaw provides a much more fair, friendly, efficient, safe, and transparent system of road transport. Local governments are slowly recognizing the benefits of such a system and Rickshaw is now formally legal in California, while in many other local jurisdictions the local governments are remaining silent on the issue, taking a wait-and-see approach.

This is part of the "neighborhood economy" movement. If you ever take a trip somewhere, take a look at AirBnB, which is this same general space. Instead of staying at a hotel, you stay with a local resident in their home and the experience is usually much more unique and friendly.

Apr 26, 2013

Gave a SB for the story.

Apr 26, 2013

Funny that you mention AirBnB, because I was one of the early haters on AirBnB and I've since eaten a fair amount of crow. Their growth has been pretty astounding, and none of the gang rapes/dismemberment/human centipede experiments that I predicted have come to pass. I like being wrong about shit like that.

Apr 26, 2013

Even before AirBnb, I remember hearing about Couchsurfing (https://www.couchsurfing.org/) and I was shocked that people would actually go and sleep on some stranger's couch. I thought that - surely - people would wake up with missing kidneys - i mean you are putting yourself alone in a stranger's living room at night.

However, when I was traveling in Indonesia, I met several couchsurfers and the whole thing appeared to be working great - the backpackers were really connecting with the local people who were really showing them the local scene in a way that would not be accessible if you were staying in a backpacking hostel.

Couchsurfing has been going pretty strong among the young backpacking community and as you know the more high-end AirBnB has been doing spectacularly. I think we don't give our fellow humans enough credit for being genuinely friendly, responsible, and hospitable.

Actually - even further back in time - do you remember when eBay came out? At that time, nobody would expect someone to actually pay money for some used stuff sent from another person in Oklahoma. Or even further back, when people started buying anything online at all from any website, most people were extremely cautious. But times change and people realize that these new transparent markets make their lives a lot better.

Apr 26, 2013

A+ interested to know about how you got the developers. Lawyers and bankers are easy to find when you work in Finance. Developers.. not so much

Apr 26, 2013

Interesting business in a relatively crowded space, although I have yet to see many companies focused on SE Asia markets. Either way, it will be interesting to see how you compete against Uber/GetTaxi/Flywheel/Hailo/Sidecar/Lyft/Ridecharge/Groundlink. Obviously not all of these are direct competitors as you're using a P2P model, but many of them could potentially move into your space (and are considered alternatives by consumers).

Also, as a side note I'm sure you already know this, but charging riders and paying "community" drivers is illegal (at least in many parts of the U.S.). To give you some more color: Sidecar launched in San Francisco, they deal with California law. Under California Penal Code 654.1, it is illegal for anyone to sell transportation or rides without the appropriate credentials (i.e., taxi license) from the state of California, Public Utilities Commission, etc. Sidecar gets around this regulation by operating under a system of voluntary payments or donations. As such, technically they aren't "paying" community drivers and therefore are "legal". Obviously, ride-sharing is a relatively new concept and regulations are still changing so there is definitely a chance regulation is not as much of a threat in a few years.

My VC has considered investing in many of these companies (and still is) and I've had a chance first hand to see their pitch decks/metrics/speak with CEO. Let me know if you want to chat sometime (PM me), would be interested to hear how you guys are doing.

Apr 26, 2013

@brutalglide Yes, it is a very active space and becoming even more crowded, however the vast majority of the players are near replicas of each other, simply focusing on different local geographies with the same exact model.

I have not yet seen any other player approaching this problem like we are. I, of course, believe that we have the better approach, but in the end it comes down to execution.

As for your point on the regulatory front, I believe that under the current view of CA state law, even Rickshaw would be technical legal. In other locations, as you may know, the local governments have simply looked the other way. In some other locations, the taxi lobby is fighting hard. However, I believe that the power of the taxi lobbies will not prevail in the medium term since a system like Rickshaw would be much better for the local people who elect the local government officials. Already, these taxi monopolies are coming under significant fire by competition authorities, passengers, drivers, and more recently from some of the better financed transport apps which are breaking the door down for the industry in general.

Also, while we are launching first in the US, our key focus markets will not actually be in the US, but will instead be in some select other locations which are more culturally used to the idea of "unofficial" taxis.

As for the payments issue, this game that SideCar and Lyft are playing with "donations" is, of course, very thinly veiled payment for service. I believe the donation system is less good for both passengers and drivers and I am sure it will not stay around for too much longer. I believe Rickshaw's approach to pricing through a bidding system, supplemented by an accurate taxi price benchmark, is far more transparent and better for the whole community.

Apr 26, 2013

one of the best posts ever

Apr 26, 2013

Loved the post! And yes, please expand more about how you got into a tech business, how you found your reliable programmers, legal issues, etc.

What we do in life echoes in eternity - Maximus Decimus Meridius

Apr 26, 2013

First of all, I would say this is a great post. I especially agree with you about the enthusiasm of starting a new business idea and implementing it, which I am currently experiencing it as well. I notice that you have been mentioning Rothschild as one of the better investment bank to work for, but I would love to hear your insights. For example, how is it different to work for Rothschild than other investment banks?

Apr 26, 2013

At first I thought that this was a Wall Street Oasis spoof on the article about me on Going Concern earlier in the week (Leaving Job to start a Company & Rothschild vs. Rothstein)
http://m.goingconcern.com/post/farewell-email-audi...

Good luck, you are entering a very crowded market!

@Nivo0o0

Apr 26, 2013

Alright, thanks for explaining. It seems like a great idea, best of luck.

Apr 26, 2013

Great post Jonathan! Check out Car2go, it might give you some inspirations. I am thinking about building an app this year, it would be great if you can share some insights in how to find programmers etc.

Apr 26, 2013

Jon,

Thank you for sharing this and the subsequent follow up replies. This has been very helpful for a majority of us who have worked in a similar role like yours in IBD and want to follow through on an entrepreneurial passion of ours. I've been around WSO for a while but don't post frequently, so I can't directly PM with my questions. My main questions would surround finding engineering talent given your background in Finance (as they say - finance knows finance people, engineers know engineers, but the two disciplines rarely cross paths)

I would like to know how you came about implementing the idea, especially given its technical nature and focus on the app development side. Since 99% of us on WSO have a good background in finance, it is often the engineering/technical expertise that we lack which prevents us from starting something. I have been tweaking my business idea around for over a year but lack of engineering talent has prevented me from taking the next step.

Thanks for your time.

Apr 27, 2013

@cavdaily Thanks for your questions. I will put together a good posting in the next one or two months outlining some practical methods you can use to find programmers and manage the development etc. As for the crossover from finance to tech, a lot of the (actually really important) soft skills are still there, such as attention to minute details, dealing with a lot of data, and of course, hard work.

Apr 26, 2013

i am also planning to start my own company , your experience and recommendations which you have shared here will help me a lot for doing it .

Apr 27, 2013

How much computer programming/application development experience did you have before this? If none, did you just hire people to do the dirty work while you gave them the formatting and ideas and maintained the business end of the company?

Apr 27, 2013

Good question - I will address this in my next post

Apr 27, 2013

I live in Singapore and now knowing I have an option rather then dealing with the incopentant taxi drivers Excites me. I will give it a go and let you know my thoughts if you are interested in feedback. Good on you for going out on your own. Good luck

Apr 27, 2013

@Robb9 Thanks a lot! Currently we are only supporting USD transactions and only in the US, however we have already built the international version (including SGD compatibility) and are currently just testing it before probably releasing the international version next week. You can go ahead, download the app and register, although we have not yet officially rolled out in Singapore yet.

We are curious whether or not we can make a market in Singapore (and Hong Kong), where transport is already so widely available and quite cheap, and where individual car ownership is extremely expensive. Still, I have a lot of personal experience waiting for 1 HOUR + for a taxi from One Raffles Quay on Friday nights. Even on other nights, it can sometimes be really difficult to get a taxi from ORQ when demand peaks.

Rickshaw, on the other hand, tends to work well during demand peak times, since that is actually when we see our supply peak, as more of our drivers are, themselves, getting out of the office and are available to provide rides to the other people who are also getting out of the office.

Apr 27, 2013

interesting idea, but - in China, it's illegal for ordinary people to be a paid driver like Taxi without the permission of govt. You can easily find tons of cases in the internet talking about this issue. Some Chinese policemen even pretended to be "passengers" to pay those friendly drivers and then arrested them. Ridiculous, but true, it's called "Diao Yu Zhi Fa " if you could read Chinese. Chinese taxi markets are highly regulated, and hope you could find a way to step away from those legal issue. Anyway, good luck!

Apr 27, 2013

@ConsolationFS China will probably be the most interesting market for us. If the local governments actually wanted to crack down on the many many vastly overpriced and untrustworthy Hei Che that are freely and openly operating at any train station, airport, etc. they could easily do so. As you may know, even in many Beijing suburbs, Hei Che are often the standard mode of transport since taxis are just unavailable. In Shenzhen, even the standard taxis sometimes operate like Hei Che , scalping and negotiating for prices many times the actual fares.

I agree that this may be a grey area, but Yin Wei Zhong Guo Hen Duo Cheng Shi Xian Zai De Chu Zu Che Bu Neng Man Zu Shi Min Chu Xing Xu Qiu ,Yin Ci Zhong Guo Guo Nei De Hei Che Shi Chang Fei Chang Da . Dan Shi Zhe Bu Jin Jin Shi Xian Zai Zan Shi De Wen Ti Huo Zhe Shi Zhong Guo De Wen Ti ,Ji Shi Shi Xiang Lun Dun Zhe Yang Fa Da Guo Jia De Cheng Shi Ye You Hen Duo Hei Che . Hei Che De Wen Ti Zai Yu Hei Che De Yun Ying ,Jie Ge ,Si Ji Xin Xi Ji Qi Ta Xin Xi Shi Wan Quan Bu Tou Ming De ,Dan Shi Wo Men De Rickshaw(Zhong Wen Ming Zi Shi "Li Ke Dao ")Shi Geng Jia Tou Ming ,Gong Ping ,Bian Yi ,Fang Bian Ji You Hao De .

Wo Men Jiang Hen Kuai Zai Zhong Guo Da Lu Fa Bu ,Wo Men Zai "Li Ke Dao "De Zhong Guo Da Lu Ban Ben Zhong Wan Quan Qian Ru Liao Zhi Fu Bao De Zhi Fu Gong Neng . Qing Fa Gei Wo PM,Gao Su Wo Nin De Dian Zi You Jian Di Zhi ,Wo Jiang Zai "Li Ke Dao "De Zhong Guo Da Lu Ban Ben Fa Bu Zhi Shi Ji Shi Tong Zhi Nin .

Apr 27, 2013

So.. with your new company, what's your compensation?

Apr 27, 2013

@seville When I was an investment banker, I certainly earned enough compensation that now, compensation is not what I am thinking about.

You can be employed by other people, or you can employ yourself. When you employ yourself, you will feel infinitely more happy with any dollar you earn.

Apr 27, 2013

I guess if we look at it in the long run, your margin will be much higher. Good luck to you and your company!

Apr 27, 2013

Thank you for the posts, Asia_i_Banker.

Do you think you could have started Rickshaw if you did not do a stint in IB?

Apr 27, 2013

definitely interested in the follow up post about starting a tech related business. Thanks for the post!

Apr 27, 2013

Thanks for the post!
I am a uk uni student coming from Hong Kong, I wake up with passion and I sleep with my dream, too!!
I hope one day I can find a working place like yours, maybe Rothchild~ (I first heard it in a book called Currency Wars lol)

Apr 27, 2013

I just wanted to say great idea! I had actually heard about the app a while back from a friend! It's an awesome plan and clearly successful, so great job!

Also, this post was one of the headlines on Business Insider! Nice!

...

Apr 28, 2013

Awesome posting. Like you said, I am interested to know how you find programmers and get through the various practical challenges. Would appreciate if you can keep me posted for future postings.

Apr 28, 2013

Inspiring story! I'm among the 90%+ to consider quit...

Whatever it takes

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Apr 28, 2013

Great story mate!

Apr 29, 2013

I am doing something very similar after living in all areas of the Finance EcoSystem (IB, PE, AM, Corp Fin) and I can echo the senitments of this article. I used to dread more things showing up in my inbox; now I welcome them. While my company is still in the finance space (translations, interpretations and cross-border business), it is much better than working 100+ hours a week.

Best of luck OP.

Apr 30, 2013

Thanks for sharing man!

Apr 30, 2013

@Asia_i_Banker- Has the conversion process using the Android to BB tool been a smooth one? I'm anxious to see whether or not the Android to BB ports will have the same level of functionality and stability that they do on their native platform. I've heard results are mixed, and while many of the apps in the store are Android apps, they aren't necessarily the best. I hope things go smoothly for you on this front, because I really want to see a BB version of the app.

Apr 30, 2013

@TDSWIM I believe some of the more graphical apps have faced problems, however ours is actually quite simple (from the front end, interface perspective), largely based on text, with some specific embedded images and APIs. The complicated stuff for Rickshaw mostly happens on the back-end, which is not specific to Android, iOS, etc.

We will hopefully be able to let you know how the conversion goes sometime in the near future after we complete the current Android update.

Are you in Canada? One reason why we will be doing the blackberry conversion is to help us out in that market (also, i am canadian, so i personally hope that blackberry can succeed :-) )

May 6, 2013
Asia_i_Banker:

@TDSWIM I believe some of the more graphical apps have faced problems, however ours is actually quite simple (from the front end, interface perspective), largely based on text, with some specific embedded images and APIs. The complicated stuff for Rickshaw mostly happens on the back-end, which is not specific to Android, iOS, etc.

We will hopefully be able to let you know how the conversion goes sometime in the near future after we complete the current Android update.

Are you in Canada? One reason why we will be doing the blackberry conversion is to help us out in that market (also, i am canadian, so i personally hope that blackberry can succeed :-) )

I'm not Canadian, but I think not being able to pull the battery out of an iphone is too big brotherish/1984, and the security issues (maybe just my perception and not reality) with androids turns me off. Plus, I like a keyboard and have been using Blackberries for a long time. Mine have all been too reliable to ditch them over a couple of apps.

I was telling a friend who got a DUI and a suspended license for a year that she should start using Rickshaw to find rides to work. Is there much of a user base in US cities yet?

May 6, 2013

@TSWIM We now have at least a couple of drivers in almost every large and small city in the US, so there would probably drivers around. However, because drivers only drive during their free times, if your friend does not find a ride in the morning, that does not mean that they can never find a ride - she should try again in the afternoons/evenings when she is leaving work, going to dinner, going out, etc..

A little update on the BlackBerry situation - it seems that the BlackBerry tool does not work well on my MacBook (one of the many frustrations of using Apple). I am planning to buy the Microsoft Surface in a week or two when it becomes available in Hong Kong, so I will do the conversion at that time. I apologize for the delay on that.

May 1, 2013

Awesome job. Looking to do this sometime in the future too. Also curious if you had any technical background as well (I was Econ / CompSci and am thinking if I myself would be the one programming, or if it's better to simply manage).

May 2, 2013
Asia_i_Banker:

Following an internship, I worked as an analyst with Rothschild's investment banking team in Singapore for two and a half years. During this time, I worked with a newly arrived director from our Frankfurt office to set up transport industry coverage in Asia and also spent time in Shanghai with a newly created PE fund that was partially financed by Rothschild.

I would like to note clearly here that if you are going to pursue IBD, I believe Rothschild is a particularly good firm to join in terms of culture and quality of your career - relative to peers. I genuinely appreciate the opportunities I had at Rothschild. This posting is more directed at what I (and presumably others) really desire in their lives, which is to create something themselves.

---- Lack of equity in my work at the investment bank ----

As early as my original internship, I noticed that people in the bank did not seem particularly happy with their lives, but at the time I thought "work is work" and continued on to the full time role.

The unpleasant aspects of investment banking have been covered at great length and at great frequency on these pages. I agree that these aspects are significant and numerous. One particular problem I had was that I was being lead to work every day and every night, through public holidays and through sick and health. Sometimes I had so much work that I was actually afraid of the work - I would become very stressed and find myself eagerly figuring out the next time I could catch some sleep. However, I did not dislike the hours as much as I disliked the dynamics of the work.

When you are an employee, work is pushed to you. You tend to want to avoid work, because every marginal work that is assigned to you does not usually lead to marginal income and it is not really your choice to do it or not do it in any case. Even in IBD, where bonuses can be substantial, you still do not feel that the work is closely tied to compensation, and even if you have had a great year, your bonus is tied to the performance of the whole team and other factors. During my second year, I was benchmarked as #2 analyst in SE Asia, but my bonus was significantly less than the average bonus during the year when I was an intern because, as a whole, the region (and I think almost all investment banks, globally) was not doing as well. It is difficult to feel that working an extra weekend really added to my bonus at the end of the year.

Sometimes it feels like it is in the interest of the employer to get you to work as much as possible, while it is your interest to go home a bit earlier, take weekends off, etc. Last weekend when your MD gave you another pitch book to do, he didn't throw another $1,000 your way, for example.

However, my problem was not actually the quantity of work. My problem was the feeling of the work being pushed to me and that I was not building anything, genuinely, myself - I was working so hard, but I did not feel equity in the work.

While some people complain about work travel, I actually liked it a lot. I took every opportunity to travel, specifically requesting that I go on different client trips, and I ending up spending the majority of my time away from the office in countries all around Asia.

---- About Rickshaw ----

On a trip to Tokyo, I was shocked at how expensive taxis were. One of my taxis was over US$100, even though it did not seem particularly lengthy, and even really short trips were US$30+. I kept thinking that surely other people driving around would have been happy to provide the ride for an alternative price.

I then thought of what is now Rickshaw, a mobile app where people who have a car and some free time can bid on rides in their community. Using Rickshaw, passengers can see the estimated cost of a local taxi company (which they can call if they want, right from the app) and compare it with different bids from nearby drivers. For example, a passenger in Chicago might see that a local taxi would cost $20, while Brian who has a 5 star rating and drives a 2007 BMW 330i is 6 minutes away and is offering the ride for $18. Meanwhile, Sarah who has a 4 star rating and drives a 2005 VW Passat is 4 minutes away and is offering the ride for $16.

After accepting a bid, the passenger and driver can send messages, call, or track the GPS location of the other party, so they can figure out which of the 10 convention center exits they should actually meet at. Passengers can pay for the ride either with cash in person or online seamlessly through credit card.

While I thought of it after taking a shockingly expensive taxi in Tokyo, Rickshaw offers value even in places like Guangzhou, China, where taxis are cheap, but often difficult to find, and where "black taxi" (unofficial taxi) drivers offer outrageous prices to passengers who are unaware of how much a local taxi actually costs. In a city like Guangzhou, you might see that a local taxi costs RMB 30.00, but you would feel very lucky if you could ever catch one on a rainy friday night. You might then see a bid for RMB 50.00. While the bid might actually be higher than the official (very low) price, at least on Rickshaw both driver and passenger are aware of the difference and the passenger can make his own informed decision.

Rickshaw is now available on Android and iPhone and can be downloaded here:
Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com....
iPhone: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/rickshaw/id6340231...

At the moment, we are only supporting USD transactions, but we expect to roll out four additional languages (Spanish, French, German, Polish) as well as 21 additional currencies as soon as next week. Our entirely proprietary database of nearly 1,000 local taxi company pricing formulas covers North America, Europe and Asia Pacific.

To find out more, take a look at our website: http://www.RickshawApp.com/

---- My life since resigning ----

After resigning, I took a month of vacation to resettle myself and then relocated from Singapore to Hong Kong to join my girlfriend, who had already been living in HK for 2 years. Unexpectedly, I actually work longer hours now than I did when I was at Rothschild, but the feeling is totally different.

The first thing I think about when I wake up, and the last thing I think about when I go to sleep is Rickshaw. When I take a shower, I think about Rickshaw. When am grocery shopping, I think about Rickshaw. I am constantly working. I work through the holidays and I work through weekends, but it doesn't feel like "work" because I am the one who is pushing myself and I am so keen to build a great product and user experience.

While I am working longer hours than I ever have, I also enjoy flexibility. Sometimes I take an entire day off if I have a friend visiting. I usually take two hour breaks in the middle of the day, using the first hour to run, and the next hour to sit in the sauna and then have lunch. I recently ran my first half marathon. I no longer fear the red blinking light on my blackberry, however am extremely interested in reading all e-mails I receive. I no longer fear unexpected calls on Saturday night, bringing me back into the office until 3am for a pitch book that is not actually due until Thursday afternoon, however I am frequently on the phone with different parties at 3am (Hong Kong time) because I am so keen to get things done right.

---- What I recommend for you ----

Investment banking was certainly not a waste of my time. I do not regret going into it and furthermore, I think that Rothschild was a very good firm to join. IBD teaches you some very valuable things such has how to manage a seriously large work load, how to manage a project (this is extremely important), how to perfect formatting (this is actually very very important if you want to design your own product), how to produce consistently high quality output late into the night, and how to very swiftly handle excel (Rickshaw is database intensive). Investment banking also importantly gives you (1) cash and (2) credibility.

If you are currently in banking, there is a 95% chance that you are looking to get out. I recommend that you start looking at the world around you and start searching for problems. Then start thinking of ways those problems could be fixed. I did this for about a year and came up with over 40 different business ideas (most of them are probably not viable though). Then, when you feel excited by an idea and you (and some people around you) believe it would actually work, think through the implementation. If you feel confident, respectfully resign after your next bonus and go for it. You are young and able, and it is easier to now start a business, fail, and then start another business. You will be less able to do this later in life after you have a mortgage, wife and kids to look after.

If you are currently still in uni and looking to go into banking, I do recommend it. As mentioned, it will give you some very useful skills, some cash, and some credibility that you can use in a couple of years when you figure out what you actually want to do in the long run. I also recommend considering Rothschild, as it is one of the better banks to work for if you are looking at banking.

---- Try out Rickshaw and let me know what you think ----

In the meantime, take a look at my website www.RickshawApp.com and download the app. Particularly if you are still a college student, have a car and some free time, sign up as a driver and bid on rides near you. Rickshaw was recently named by USA Today as #3 way to make extra cash while in college, so give it a try :-)

For those of you who are frustrated trying to get a taxi at 6:30pm on a rainy Friday night, sign up as a passenger and expand your transport options beyond taxis.

If anyone has any recommendations for the app, please let me know, as I am very interested learning about your experience.

Also, I believe a number of you might be interested in starting a tech related business. If you would like, I could make a future posting about some of the practical things you will need to do to find programmers, get over some significant hurdles (payment systems integration), etc. If you are interested, please say so in the comments below.

Good luck,
Jonathan

Great post, like everybody else I am interested in hearing about how to find programmers/engineers. I used to make daily "idea lists" as you did for how to solve issues in the world; frequently had an excellent idea but literally 0 technical knowledge to execute it. I will certainly be looking out for your future post on this topic!

May 7, 2013

FYI to All: I have now published my follow-up post on "How to Make an App if You Only Know Investment Banking"

You may find it here:
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/blog/how-to-make-an...

May 13, 2013

We have now accumulated a good base of drivers and passengers, but are currently experiencing the issue of thin or imbalanced user numbers in individual local areas. Because of this, we are amid a pivot of how we are approaching business development and are now recruiting local partners to be responsible and incentivized for developing and managing local Rickshaw communities. Ideally, but not necessarily, these local managers would be current university students. Please let us know if you are interested in discussing this role. You may send us an e-mail at [email protected]

May 24, 2013

Did you see this? Lyft just raised $60 million from Andreeson Horowitz:

http://www.theverge.com/2013/5/23/4357666/lyft-int...

May 24, 2013
Edmundo Braverman:

Did you see this? Lyft just raised $60 million from Andreeson Horowitz:

http://www.theverge.com/2013/5/23/4357666/lyft-int...

Maybe we'll see a Seemless+Grubhub move some time in the future.

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May 25, 2013
D M:
Edmundo Braverman:

Did you see this? Lyft just raised $60 million from Andreeson Horowitz:
http://www.theverge.com/2013/5/23/4357666/lyft-int...

Maybe we'll see a Seemless+Grubhub move some time in the future.

Is that a joke or did you not see this a few days ago:

http://money.cnn.com/2013/05/20/news/companies/sea...

May 25, 2013
Edmundo Braverman:
D M:

Edmundo Braverman:
Did you see this? Lyft just raised $60 million from Andreeson Horowitz:
http://www.theverge.com/2013/5/23/4357666/lyft-int...

Maybe we'll see a Seemless+Grubhub move some time in the future.

Is that a joke or did you not see this a few days ago:

http://money.cnn.com/2013/05/20/news/companies/sea...

I meant maybe we'll see a Lyft+Rickshaw move like the Seamless+Grubhub merger.

May 26, 2013
D M:
Edmundo Braverman:

D M:

Edmundo Braverman:
Did you see this? Lyft just raised $60 million from Andreeson Horowitz:
http://www.theverge.com/2013/5/23/4357666/lyft-int...
Maybe we'll see a Seemless+Grubhub move some time in the future.

Is that a joke or did you not see this a few days ago:
http://money.cnn.com/2013/05/20/news/companies/sea...

I meant maybe we'll see a Lyft+Rickshaw move like the Seamless+Grubhub merger.

Ahhh.... Gotcha.

May 24, 2013

Yes, I am certainly following the movements of my competitors while also trying to get Rickshaw up to speed as fast as possible.

I believe that the Rickshaw platform is a better platform than theirs, but now that we are a bit later to the game, we have to move quickly and efficiently. It is at least good that their success does reflect well on the prospects of the community transport space.

Meanwhile, in the past several days we have signed contracts with local partners in Philadelphia, Sydney and Brisbane and we hope that by as early as the end of next week we would have signed local partnerships with people in 10+ cities.

These local partners are focused on developing and managing passenger and driver bases in their particular location.

If anyone is interested in discussing a local partnership role with us, please send us an e-mail at [email protected]

Aug 15, 2013

Great read. Thanks.

Sep 14, 2013

In another thread you wrote that you are back in IB. What eventually happened to your start-up would be an interesting read.

Snootchie Bootchies

Nov 13, 2013

Dear Asia_i_Banker,

I am a Canadian student who was born in MY and has families in SG, MY, HK, MC and TW. Currently, I am looking at SA opportunities in Asia and am interested in having a career there in the future. I understand that Asian experiences are often discounted in NA. I am just curious if you can provide your views and opinions on how Rothschild's SEA offices (SG and MY) compare to those in GC (HK, BJ, SH, TW), and whether you think it is better to intern in NA for the experience.

Thank you so much!

happyivey

Nov 22, 2013

Hi OP,

I just read your opening post and firstly, let me say congrats on taking the steps to make your dream a reality.

I am currently working in Finance in HK and I've been thinking about quitting for a while now. If you are still in HK, it would be great to meet you for a drink and hear more about your "tipping point".

P.M me if you are still in HK.

Nov 22, 2013

Good post.

Best

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